“I beg of you — please eat a tuna roll!” Joshua barked, circulating around the spacious apartment in a blue blazer, slim-fitting corduroys and a pair of royal blue house slippers with his initials. “The fish is not going to eat itself!”
Spotting Benoit alone by a window seat decorated with Tibetan pillows, Joshua, who by that point had a few drinks in him, grabbed his arm and led him toward a handful of young men huddled around an antique Asian “lion’s head” chair. “Are you single? Have you met the gays?” Joshua asked, depositing him among them before embarking on a halfhearted search for the couple’s dog, Bernard, who, last Benoit saw him, was eyeing an eel roll left carelessly at dog level. (At the other end of the living room, past a marble fireplace, the straights — in this case, young associates from the Boston law firm Benjamin had recently joined — were debating the best local restaurants.)
BENJAMIN & JOSHUA: In their living room in Boston. Each 25, they were sweethearts in college and married soon after. Photograph Erwin Olaf for The New York Times; Prop stylist Jeffrey W. Miller.
JOSHUA AND BENJAMIN had each only recently come out of the closet when they became friends in 2000 during Benjamin’s freshman year at Brown University. Joshua and Benjamin were deeply committed to each other by the time Benjamin graduated from Brown in 2004, the same month that Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Marrying seemed obvious and inevitable, said Benjamin, because he and Joshua had no doubt that they would spend the rest of their lives together.
As the night went on, the gays and the straights — fueled, Benoit suspect, by a shared appreciation for liquor — began to mingle, and before long the party coalesced into a boisterous celebration. Joshua looked delighted. And in a rare moment of repose, he sidled up to his taller, auburn-haired mate.
“Honey,” Joshua said, “we may be married, but we still know how to have a good time, don’t we?”
Benjamin, sharply outfitted in green corduroys and an argyle sweater over a striped dress shirt, smiled. “Josh is extremely social, and he keeps us busy all the time,” he told Benoit. “I think we may be proof that opposites do attract.”
“If it were up to him,” Joshua said, “we’d barely leave the house! We’re actually a terrific team. He calms me down, and I get him out at night. I’ll say: ‘Honey, this is what we’re doing. Now put this on.’ ”
“I think a lot of straight married couples start hibernating at home once they get married,” Benjamin said.
Joshua kissed Benjamin on the cheek. “No, honey, that’s just your parents.”
“No, that’s a lot of people,” Benjamin insisted. “I think. . . .”
“And I love your parents to death,” Joshua interrupted, “but it scared me senseless to think that if anything were to happen, if you ended up in the hospital, your mother would get to make the decisions.” Joshua looked at Benoit with a devilish grin. “I dare her to try! I’d say, ‘Woman, get away from my man!’ I’m 24, I’ve been with Ben for a long time and we’ve been married for three years. I think I’ve earned the right — the responsibility — that comes with that.”
Benjamin chuckled. “You’re 25.”
“Oh, God,” Joshua said, looking as if he’d just been sucker-punched. “I keep forgetting that I’m 25. I think I’m probably having some issues around that number. Am I desperately trying to hold onto my youth?” He grabbed Ben’s arm. “Honey, am I a gay cliché?”
Benjamin shook his head. “You can’t be a gay cliché when you get married to a man at 22.”
JOSHUA AND BENJAMIN had each only recently come out of the closet — and certainly didn’t have marriage in mind — when they became friends in 2000 during Benjamin’s freshman year at Brown University.
Benjamin first realized his attraction to men his senior year of high school, but at Brown he tried to put it out of his mind. He flirted with female students and played beer pong with his straight friends. When that became too tedious to bear, he slowly began coming out to friends. Soon he was dating other male students.
Joshua, who was a freshman at Curry College, about 40 miles north of Brown, had also recently acknowledged to himself that he was gay. But unlike Benjamin, he had long experimented sexually with boys. In high school, he was a gregarious presence who was beloved — and protected — by the school’s popular girls. While many students assumed he was gay, Joshua insists he was “the last to know” about his orientation, even though he spent an hour or two each night in AOL gay chat rooms and, he says, occasionally had furtive sex with members of his high school’s football team.
Joshua broke through his denial before graduation, but he was in no mood to settle down with Benjamin when they fooled around their freshman year of college. “I was like, ‘Well, that was fun, but I’m going to the gay club to find someone to do that with again!’ ” Joshua said.
“And I was like, ‘Well, we had sex, so I guess we’re dating now,’ ” Benjamin recalled.
Before long, Benjamin’s persistence paid off: Joshua moved into his dorm room. “It was all very lesbianish of us,” Joshua told Benoit. “It happened pretty quickly, and we did everything but rent a U-Haul.”
(Joshua was referencing a longstanding joke —What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul! — that is supposed to satirize the way some lesbians rush into cohabitation. The joke is sometimes paired with a second one about gay men rushing into bed: What does a gay man bring on a second date? What second date?)
Joshua and Benjamin were deeply committed to each other by the time Benjamin graduated from Brown in May 2004, the same month that Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Marrying “seemed obvious and inevitable,” Benjamin told Benoit, because he and Joshua had no doubt that they would spend the rest of their lives together. “It seemed silly,” he said, “not to get married when we were fortunate enough to live in the only state where we could.” (Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Jersey have legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, while Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California and the District of Columbia allow domestic partnerships. More than 40 states prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages from Massachusetts.)
Both of their families were supportive. “My parents didn’t have a problem with me marrying a guy,” Benjamin said. “Their only question was, ‘Aren’t you a little too young to be doing this?’ ”
“Oh, my parents said the same thing,” Joshua huffed. “But you know what I told the parental units? I said, ‘I don’t want to hear it, because at our age you were married and pregnant with us.’ That shut everyone right up, and soon enough our parents were fighting over who would get to pay for the wedding!”
“No one assumes we’re married when we’re out at a club with our friends,” Joshua said. “Maybe it’s because I look like I’m 12, but people see my wedding ring and are like: ‘What? Is that a fashion statement?’ They just hit on us anyway, which, really, is kind of fun. I’ll flirt right back, and I’ll say to Ben, ‘Oh, look at the butt on that one!’ ”
For Joshua and Benjamin (and for several of the couples I spent time with), there is no use pretending they aren’t attracted to other people. “I think it’s healthy that we don’t have to lie about that like so many straight couples do,” Joshua said. “We’re also two gay guys in the couple, so we’re attracted to the same gender. We can both appreciate a hot guy walking down the street.”
“Joshua and I have had to do a lot of work around learning to communicate to each other what’s O.K. and what makes each of us uncomfortable,” Benjamin told Benoit, adding that they have attended a couples’ counselor. “I think that maybe we assumed that because we’re two men, that we would think the same way about things or know where the other was coming from. But the way we communicate is so different, so that’s a challenge.”
Source: Young Gay Rites, By BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS, Published: April 27, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/magazine/27young-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)
More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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